Florida Power & Light wants to use public funds to fight off clean water rules. FPL went before the Florida Public Service Commission on Wednesday, asking it to allow the utility company to collect $228,500 from ratepayers to lobby against proposed water rules by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA has put together rules that would affect regulation of cooling ponds at FPL plants throughout Florida. But FPL says the rules are overreaching and would mean that current facilities and electric utility projects could be impacted and, thus, could mean more expenses.
Environmental advocates are calling FPL's request outrageous.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, an environmental group, says that FPL is only going to weaken water-protection rules while charging the public to do so.
"Water is our most precious resource, and to think that the utility would not only want to weaken water protections but would want to use ratepayer money against our own interests is really outrageous," Susan Glickman, state director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, told Public News Service.
Kathy Atero of Florida's Clean Water Action spoke with reporters in a conference call last week, saying, "It is outrageous that FPL would use our ratepayers' money to lobby against what is in the best interest of Florida's economy and the water supply of millions of Floridians."
FPL, however, contends that it's simply trying to not have to raise utility bills. The company has argued that it would cost around $2.4 million to get each of its facilities prepared in order to adopt the EPA's new rules -- a cost that would eventually be passed on to its customers.
"Our goal is to prevent customers from paying more," a spokeswoman for FPL told the Tampa Tribune. "The estimates we've gotten so far is it could be $25 million or more for every facility that we have to go back and retrofit to meet these new rules that we don't think are necessary."
The new water-protection rules, put together by the EPA as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, would mean that most Florida wetlands, rivers and streams, and rain-dependent streams would be protected -- this would include the cooling ponds and cooling canals used by FPL. The company says the changes would cost $3 million to $6 million to maintain every year.
The state has more than 580 miles of streams that lead into drinking-water sources, environmentalists say.
The advocacy groups are also calling FPL's ploy "lobbying" and say that the company is using its huge influence to get policy makers in Tallahassee to do its bidding,
FPL says it's not lobbying.
"We are not attempting to influence lawmakers or legislation," a company spokesperson told Bloomberg last week. "We are getting involved in the rule-making process with one of our regulators to protect our customers' interests and prevent what could be extremely costly and unnecessary requirements."
FPL wants ratepayers to pay for its effort to stop EPA from expanding Clean Water Act. "It's not lobbying. It is regulatory advocacy."— Crowley Report (@crowleyreport) October 23, 2014
FPL is also claiming that these new rules contradict a Supreme Court ruling on the Waters of the United States Rulemaking Project.
The Florida Public Service Commission is expected to make a decision by the end of the month, although a final vote probably won't happen until November.